Based on the popular PlayStation video game series of the same name, the globe-trotting adventure Uncharted arrived on Blu-ray this week. Following a similar trajectory of other adaptations, take Tomb Raider for example, Ruben Fleischer’s film follows Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) as he searches for an ancient treasure and gets caught up in a web of deceit in the process.
An origin story, Uncharted examines how Drake became the swashbuckling adventurer that fans have come to love in the game. Estranged from his brother Sam (Rudy Pankow), who shared the same passion for history and artifacts, from a young age, the orphaned Drake now spends his time working at a bar in New York and committing petty thefts on unsuspecting customers. However, the opportunity to reconnect with Sam presents itself in the form of Victor “Sully” Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg), an explore who comes seeking Drake’s assistance. Claiming to have worked alongside his brother on a quest to find an ancient pirate’s fortune, Sully’s journey was cut short when Sam went missing. Believing that Drake might unknowingly be holding information to the hidden gold, Sully convinces the street-smart bartender to help him finish the mission he and Sam started.
For Drake the motivation is clear, if they find the gold then chances are good that they will find Sam in the process. Of course, Sully is not the only one searching for the pirate’s booty. The wealthy Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas), who believes he and his family are the rightful heirs, is determined to get the treasure at all costs. Enlisting a lethal assassin Braddock (Tati Gabrielle) to lead his team, the ruthless Moncada considers it only a matter of time before gets what he covets most. As if evading Moncada’s vicious goons was not difficult enough, Drake and Scully must also navigate fellow adventurer Chloe Frazer (Sophia Alia). A woman who Sully does not trust but has in her possession one of the pieces needed to find the gold.
Uncharted does not waste much time getting into the Indiana Jones style action that made the video games so popular. The opening sequence, which is expanded on later in the film, does a great job of setting the tone. Fleischer packs the films with several fun and thrilling set pieces that will satisfy even the most casual viewer. Keeping close to the established formula of the genre, Drake and company try to decipher the clues while evading elaborate traps along the way.
While one does not need to be a fan of the video game to enjoy Uncharted, some of its shortcomings are directly linked to the film’s faithfulness to the source material. In attempting to incorporate as many aspects of the game as possible, from set pieces to key characters, while simultaneously charting a new path, the film exists in a sort of purgatory. It entertains, but lacks a sense of identity and purpose.
Part of this stems from the fact that none of the characters have any real depth or personality. They are all thinly drawn and never go out of the lines. Drake is the charming and well-intentioned history nerd with parkour skills. Sully is the greedy partner with trust issues. Chloe can be both potential love interest and villain depending on the direction the financial winds blow. If one was not familiar with the game, her presence would not seem as important to the film’s overall narrative.
The narrow lines the characters are sketched in is especially noticeable in the way the film attempts to juggle its numerous villains. Fortunately, there is enough action and humour to distract loyal fans and newcomers alike from the film’s weaker sections. The Blu-ray includes several bonus features that take one deeper into the creation of the film, though those looking for more video game related content will be disappointed. The best insight come from the “Becoming Nathan Drake“ featurette which highlights how Fleischer balanced sequences from the various games and his desire to take the franchise in a new direction a film standpoint.
Despite its shortcomings, Uncharted is a serviceable adventure film that entertains even if it does not reach its full potential.
Bonus Features: Deleted & Extended Scenes, Never a Dull Moment: Stunts & Action, Becoming Nathan Drake, Director Commentary, Villains, Backstabbers, & Accomplices, Charting the Course: On Set with Ruben Fleischer, The Buddy System, Big Action Breakdown: C-17 Globemaster, Music Video, Theatrical Marketing